Home > Reviews > BOBBY JONES: STROKE OF GENIUS – James Horner


bobbyjonesOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

American golfer Bobby Jones was one of the pioneers of the game; the winner of thirteen major tournaments, including the 1923 US Open at Inwood, the 1926 British Open, the 1926 US Open at Scioto, the 1927 British Open, the 1929 US Open at Winged Foot, and the “grand slam”– all four majors in a season – in 1930, he is regarded as one of the all-time greats, and stands in second place behind Jack Nicklaus in the list of champions. Jones retired from golf after this incredible feat to concentrate on a career in law, but not before helping design the world famous Augusta gold course in his home state of Georgia. Jones died in 1971 aged 69. Rowdy Herrington’s film Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius is a straightforward biopic starring Jim Caviezel (hot from The Passion of the Christ) as Jones, Claire Forlani as his wife Mary, Jeremy Northam as fellow golfer Walter Hagen, and Malcolm McDowell as O.B. Keeler, the man who would eventually go on to write Jones’s biography.

Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius is a typical Horner Gaelic/Celtic score, with all the tricks and traps we all know and love from scores such as Braveheart, The Devil’s Own, Titanic, and others. Rest assured, if you have heard any or all of these scores, you already have a fair idea of what Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius sounds like. The infuriating thing about it, though, is that Horner quite obviously loves this kind of music, and the pleasure he derived from writing it shines through in the finished product. It is lively, warm, inviting, lyrical, sweeping and beautiful at times, low key and intimate at others, and wholly enjoyable from start to finish.

The opening cue, ‘St. Andrews’, brings to mind cold, mist-shrouded mornings on the North Sea coast – where the Royal & Ancient Gold Club is located – before emerging into the first statement of the sentimental main theme for Jones and his sporting triumphs. The theme reaches beautiful heights in the amazing 20-minute finale, “The Shot Of A Lifetime”, “Living The Dream” and “End Credits”, which runs the gamut of emotions from introspective self reflection to unadulterated glory in the triumph of sporting victory. One thing Horner has always had is a masterful touch when it comes to manipulating an audience’s emotions. He knows which musical buttons to push, and when, in order to elicit the perfect response from his listeners. When the theme rises to its fullest crescendo during “Living The Dream”, you know you are listening to a magician at work. When the guitar and clarinet combine so gracefully at the beginning of the “End Credits”, it makes you want to weep – I can’t remember the last time Horner used an acoustic guitar in such a gorgeous setting.

The pipes of Eric Rigler, and a multitude of whistles and bells make regular guest appearances throughout the score, adding a touch of Celtic charm to cues such as “Destined for Greatness” and “He’s On a Roll Now”, and bringing to mind similarly-styled moments from Willow, and even his little-heard Heaven Help Us from back in the early 1980s. Similarly, “A Win, Finally!” emerges from a terse snare-drum led opening into a fine pipe jig replete with magical chimes, Tony Hinnigan’s nostalgically familiar woodwinds and Ian Underwood’s haunting synthesised undercurrent.

The one and only drawback – yet again with Horner – is that a great deal of the chords, motifs and thematic content is reprised virtually note for note from other scores. One of the recurring themes (heard in “Baby Strokes”, the second half of “Destined for Greatness” and during “Playing the Odds”) is plainly a reworking of the music heard at the Battle of Bannockburn in Braveheart; “Not Just a Game Anymore” is a cross between the wedding cue from Braveheart and the love them from Bicentennial Man; the moody synth chords which occasionally intone across the speakers are from the Braveheart main titles; and so it goes on and on.

I agree that my listing these self-quotations is becoming tiresome, and to be honest I only do it to illustrate that, despite my unwavering love of Horner’s music, I am not blind to his shortcomings as an artist. The bottom line, however, is that if you like or have ever liked Horner’s scores, there is a great deal to recommend in Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, rip-offs and all.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • St. Andrews (7:16)
  • Baby Strokes (4:05)
  • The First Lesson (4:39)
  • Not Just A Game Anymore (3:05)
  • Destined For Greatness (6:52)
  • The Painful Secret (3:42)
  • “A Win, Finally!” (3:36)
  • Playing The Odds (6:07)
  • “He’s on a Roll Now” (2:03)
  • The Shot Of A Lifetime (4:47)
  • Living The Dream (10:26)
  • End Credits (6:42)

Running Time: 63 minutes 24 seconds

Varése Sarabande 302-066-577-2 (2004)

Music composed and conducted by James Horner. Orchestrations by James Horner. Featured musical soloists Tony Hinnigan, Eric Rigler and George Doering. Recorded and mixed by Simon Rhodes. Edited by Jim Henrikson. Mastered by Bob Bornstein. Album produced by James Horner and Simon Rhodes.

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